AI vs. the EHS manager

Environmental, health, and safety (EHS) managers are responsible for developing, implementing, and monitoring programs designed to protect employees, the public, and the environment. In some cases, EHS managers are also responsible for...

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December 5, 2022
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AI vs. The EHS Manager

Environmental, health, and safety (EHS) managers are responsible for developing, implementing, and monitoring programs designed to protect employees, the public, and the environment. In some cases, EHS managers are also responsible for managing compliance with government regulations. 

The day-to-day duties of an EHS manager vary depending on the size and scope of the organization. However, there are some common duties that all EHS managers perform. An EHS manager must be able to wear many hats and have a deep understanding of both environmental law and business operations in order to be successful. 

They must be able to effectively communicate with employees at all levels of the organization in order to foster a culture of safety. In addition, they must have strong problem-solving skills so that they can quickly identify and correct any deficiencies in the EHS program.

Developing and Implementing Programs 

EHS managers are responsible for developing and implementing programs designed to protect employees, the public, and the environment. These programs may include safety training initiatives, recycling programs, and emergency preparedness plans. 

Their job is to look at the company’s existing safety plans, identify any major safety threats, and take steps to mitigate them. From creating safe systems of work (SSoW) to looking at ways to add redundancies, they are responsible for developing various plans that can help reduce the risk of injury and make the workplace safer.  

Conducting Inspections 

EHS managers conduct regular inspections of facilities to identify potential hazards. Once hazards have been identified, EHS managers work with facility managers to correct them. 

From using conventional ethnographic approaches to observe how work is done to reviewing data gathered by another party and identifying key areas of improvement, the job of an EHS manager has changed significantly over the past few years. 

As the nature of work has gotten increasingly complex, many EHS managers have infused technology into their workflows, often relying on AI to identify key data points that could help them make critical decisions.  

Monitoring Compliance 

EHS managers use data from audits and inspections to monitor compliance with internal policies and external regulations. When non-compliance is discovered, EHS managers work with employees to correct it. 

This is critically important as one of the core responsibilities for an EHS manager is to ensure that the company complies with safe work practices and industry regulations. If, for instance, the company is found in breach of safety policies (often regulated by authorities) or accepted environmental practices, there is a risk of heavy fines. 

Investigating Incidents 

When incidents occur, it is the responsibility of EHS managers to investigate them. During an investigation, EHS managers collect evidence, interview witnesses, and prepare reports. Based on their findings, EHS managers make recommendations to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.  

The aim for investigating incidents is never to punish the party at fault. It’s to identify what went wrong, how it went wrong, and then looking at ways to ensure that it never happens again. Many EHS managers now use technology to record incident investigations and use various modeling techniques to analyze incidents. 

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What is AI’s Impact on Workplace Safety?

Accidents can not only lead to injuries and deaths, but they can also be costly in terms of productivity, insurance, and workers' compensation claims. That's why more and more EHS managers are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to help improve workplace safety. Here are just some of the many ways by which AI can be used to improve workplace safety by EHS managers.

  1. Analyzing Safety Data

One of the most important ways that AI is being used to improve workplace safety is by analyzing data related to past accidents. This data can be used to identify patterns and trends that could indicate potential hazards. 

For example, if there have been several accidents involving a particular type of machinery, AI can be used to determine if that machinery is faulty or if there is some other issue that needs to be addressed. By identifying these patterns, businesses can take steps to correct the problem before another accident occurs.

  1. Monitoring Employee Behavior

Another way that AI is being used to improve workplace safety is by monitoring employee behavior. This can be done using sensors that track things like how often an employee breaks safety protocols or how many times they've been involved in an accident. 

The data collected by these sensors can then be analyzed by AI algorithms to identify potential safety concerns. For example, if an employee is constantly breaking safety protocols, they may be putting themselves and others at risk. 

By identifying these employees, businesses can provide them with additional training or reassign them to a different job where they will be less likely to cause an accident. Advanced technologies like computer vision or video content analysis are now being used for monitoring and analysis as well.

For instance, AI-powered cameras can be configured to track employee behavior, and raise an alarm or send a warning when they are found in breach of safety protocols. The system continues to learn over time as more data is fed into it, becoming more accurate. 

  1. Improving Training Programs

Finally, AI is also being used to improve training programs for employees. This includes both onboarding programs for new employees and ongoing training for existing employees. By using data from past accidents and incidents, AI can help identify the areas where employees need additional training. 

For example, if there have been several accidents involving a particular type of machinery, AI can help determine what type of training would be most effective in preventing future accidents. 

Additionally, by constantly monitoring employee behavior, AI can help businesses identify when additional training may be needed for existing employees.

The data insights that it unlocks can prove to be critical for EHS managers when devising safety plans for the organization as a whole, for instance. 

Adoption of AI Amongst EHS Managers

While an increasing number of companies are now embracing advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, it’s still very much at an early adopter stage. 

In fact, the use of AI for safety performance is generally limited to large-scale organizations or in industries where the inherent safety risks are generally higher. These are also the industries where EHS teams are harnessing the maximum value from AI technology:

  1. Construction Industry

In the construction industry, webcams equipped with AI are being used to monitor workers and identify unsafe behavior such as not wearing a hard hat or not properly securing equipment. The AI system then sends an alert to a supervisor who can take corrective action. This type of AI-powered surveillance is expected to help reduce accidents and injuries in the construction industry.

  1. Mining Industry

AI is also being used in the mining industry to improve safety. For example, AI surveillance cameras can be used to monitor conditions and detect movement in areas that are deemed exclusion zones or are restricted. 

The data collected by these cameras is then analyzed by experts who can provide insights on how to improve safety in the mines. In addition, GPS tracking systems are being used to track the location of miners and send alerts if they venture into unsafe areas. 

  1. Manufacturing Industry

AI is also playing a role in improving workplace safety in the manufacturing industry. Robotics companies are using AI to create robots that can work alongside humans without posing a danger to them. 

For example, some companies have developed robots that can assist workers with lifting heavy objects. The robot uses sensors and cameras to avoid bumping into or crushing humans. Other companies are using robots equipped with lasers and sensors to perform dangerous tasks such as cleaning vats of hot oil.

These are all industries where EHS teams often find it difficult to monitor workplace conditions. Due to the dynamic and fast-paced nature of work in such industries, and the increased risk of injury in case something goes wrong, EHS teams traditionally have only relied on historical data and retrospective steps. 

With AI, they are now able to take a more proactive approach to improving workplace conditions and mitigate the risks associated with different work practices. 

What are the Benefits of Using AI for EHS Managers?

AI can help EHS managers in a number of ways, from reducing the amount of time spent on mundane tasks to identifying risks that human beings might miss. The field of environmental, health, and safety (EHS) is ripe for transformation through the application of artificial intelligence. 

In fact, AI presents a unique opportunity for EHS managers to not only improve their own ability to make better decisions but also empower employees throughout the organization to be proactive in identifying and addressing EHS risks. Here are just a few of the potential benefits of using AI for EHS management.

  1. Improved Risk Identification and Assessment

AI can analyze vast amounts of data—including employee behavior, historical data relating to safety incidents, and key trends—to help identify potential risks that might otherwise be missed. 

For instance, if there is a sudden spike in accidents on a construction site, AI tools can be used for analysis and to determine what went wrong and look for commonalities in the incidents.

This is because AI tools can analyze large amounts of data quickly and look for patterns that indicate potential risks. For example, suppose you're trying to identify which areas in your facility are most likely to cause injuries. You could go through every incident report manually, or you could use AI tools like Protex AI to look at key events, and refer to specific tags.

 Protex AI uses machine learning to analyze data from security cameras and identify potential risks. It can be configured to send alerts to relevant authorities so they can prevent accidents before they happen.

  1. More Efficient Incident Reporting

Rather than waiting for employees to report incidents, AI can proactively identify them and notify the appropriate personnel. For example, if an employee trips and falls, AI can immediately detect the incident and send an alert to EHS teams. This allows incidents to be addressed more quickly and reduces the likelihood of further injuries.

  1. Enhanced Compliance Monitoring

AI can help identify compliance issues in real time and provide alerts when corrective action is needed. For example, if a machine is operating outside of its approved parameters, AI can detect the problem and notify the appropriate personnel so that they can take corrective action. 

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How AI and EHS Managers Can Work Together to Improve Risk Management?

A common misconception for many people is thinking that AI might make the job of an EHS manager redundant. In actuality, AI tools like Protex AI are designed to improve their jobs, empowering EHS managers with critical information that they can use for making safety decisions that impact not just the company, but every individual stakeholder. 

Large-scale organizations are now using AI tools to gather data from multiple sources and analyze it. As these tools continue to become more and more accurate, EHS teams are able to devise more effective policies that are not just cost-efficient, but also a marked improvement over previous ones. 

For instance, in the case of lone worker monitoring, AI tools have been proven to be vastly more beneficial than using older approaches like, say, the “buddy system.” It ensures accuracy in reporting and tracking, and allows organizations visibility into whether employees are following safety protocols or not, and what can be done to enforce certain policies. 

AI and EHS Managers: A Case Study

Marks & Spencer, one of the largest retailers in the UK, with over 1,400 stores across the globe and a workforce that is 65,000 strong, is already embracing AI to improve workplace safety. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the M&S Economic Distribution Centre at Castle Donington had to scale up distribution rapidly, hitting up to two million single orders in a week. 

This meant rapidly increasing the number of people available on-site, which increased the risk of injury too. It’s virtually impossible for EHS teams to be available everywhere all at once and to monitor safety events. 

Instead, they deployed Protex AI, an AI-powered workplace safety solution that offers autonomous event capture and can be connected to an organization’s existing CCTV network. 

This made it easy for their EHS teams to capture information that would’ve been missed otherwise, including tagging events and recording any safety issues, even when the team was off-site. 

The result: an immediate 40% decrease in safety events that would’ve been deemed unsafe. Their safety team was able to refocus on staff training, which led to a further reduction in safety incidents. 

In a mere three-month period, there was a 80% reduction in unsafe incidents, and since deployment, their team has been able to maintain this baseline, with a +/- 5% variation. Using AI also helped them identify safety events that would’ve otherwise have been missed, such as near misses. 

James Carter, the Network Health and Safety Manager at M&S said, “Having that extra capability to notice unsafe behaviours that may be occurring on a regular basis, and then figuring out why they are happening and what we can do to make those trends safe has been really powerful.”

Conclusion

Tools such as Protex AI are heralding a new era of workplace safety, empowering EHS teams with information that would’ve been incredibly difficult to track otherwise. From autonomous event capture to accurate, efficient reporting, the use of AI in workplace safety is only expected to grow, and more importantly, help EHS managers make workplaces safer. 

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